Lauren Bon and The Metabolic Studio has awarded the 2016 CHORA Prize to filmmaker, poet and cultural interlocutor Jonas Mekas, to honor his originality and cultural expression, and acknowledging his creation of contexts for the creativity of others, and spaces for discourses that have not existed before. The evolution of film history is unimaginable without Jonas Mekas’s creation, through his over fifty-year practice, of an axis for this creative field and its cultural appreciation. The term “chora” is ancient Greek for “vessel” and was used by Plato to refer to that which precedes realization, and its state of being more real than the thing itself.
Lithuanian-born Jonas Mekas has lived and worked in New York City since 1949 when the UN Refugee Organization secured transit for him and his brother Adolfas. Together with his brother, Jonas Mekas founded Film Culture magazine in 1954, which soon became the most influential film publication in the US. In 1958 he began his legendary ‘Movie Journal’ column in the Village Voice. In 1962 he founded the Film-Makers' Cooperative, and in 1964 the Film-Makers' Cinematheque, which eventually grew into Anthology Film Archives, one of the world's largest and most important repositories of avant-garde cinema, and a screening and events venue.
Jonas Mekas’s has written poetry and made films throughout his life. He has published more than 20 books of prose and poetry, which have been translated into over a dozen languages. His Lithuanian poetry is now part of Lithuanian classic literature, and his films are held in the collections of museums around the world. He is largely credited for developing the diaristic forms of cinema, and in 2007, he completed a series of 365 short films released on the Internet—one film every day—and since then has continued to share new work on his website. Since 2000, Mekas has expanded his work into the area of film installations, exhibiting at the Serpentine Gallery, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; PS1, New York; Documenta, Kassel; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; and the Venice Biennale.
Mekas' film The Brig was awarded the Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1963. Other films include Walden (1969); Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972); Lost Lost Lost (1975); Scenes from the Life of Andy Warhol (1990); Scenes from the Life of George Maciunas (1992); As I was Moving Ahead I saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000); Letter from Greenpoint (2005), Sleepless Nights Stories (2011) and Out-takes from the Life of a Happy Man (2012). Mekas has also been active as an academic, teaching at The New School, International Center for Photography, New York University, Cooper Union in New York, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The CHORA Prize has been previously awarded to the Detroit activist and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs (2014); Drew Cameron for the Combat Paper Project, an organization that conducts workshops around the country to teach military veterans how to make paper by hand from their old uniforms (2012); and Felicity Powell for her exhibition Medals of Dishonour (2009).